Lead role in WA agriculture

Noel Fitzpatrick, former Department of Agriculture director general.
Camera IconNoel Fitzpatrick, former Department of Agriculture director general. Credit: Peter Maloney


Noel Fitzpatrick

Agricultural sector champion

Born: Narembeen, 1929

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Died: Perth, 2019

WA has lost one of its most highly regarded public sector leaders and agriculture stalwarts.

Noel Fitzpatrick, who led the former Department of Agriculture for 13 years in the 1970s and 1980s, passed away on December 6. A farmer’s son, Noel was born in 1929 in the eastern Wheatbelt town of Narembeen.

He graduated with a bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of Western Australia in 1951 and joined the then Department of Agriculture.

This was the start of an illustrious scientific career with important research into pastures and soil nutrition of the newly cleared land in the State’s south in the 50s and 60s.

In 1963, he moved into administration as the first scientific liaison officer. He was appointed deputy director in 1969 and then director in 1971, a role he held until 1984.

His 13 years as director was a period of great change in agriculture, particularly in cropping.

He positioned WA well to transform from a relatively minor producer of wheat to a major contributor through his foresight and capacity to be ahead of the issues of the day.

He believed passionately in attracting the best research talents to the department and supported them with leadership and foresight.

In 1984, he moved on to become the deputy secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry.

A highlight of this period was the establishment of the Bureau of Rural Science. In 1988, he became the inaugural president of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. Noel received many accolades for his work, including being made a Member of the Order of Australia and induction into the Royal Agricultural Society’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

While retired, Noel wrote ‘In Response to Need, a history of the WA Department of Agriculture from 1894 to 2008’ — a great reference source that sits on many bookshelves in offices across the State.

This obituary was supplied by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

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